Planting a summer vegetable garden is a rewarding project that gives back ten-fold. It’s a great way to improve your diet and get a little exercise in the process. If you’re short on garden space, no worries – container gardening on a porch, deck or patio is even easier. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll have to drop a bale of cash at the local garden center. Although it will no doubt be a frequent stop, there are other more affordable ways to plant a thriving vegetable garden.
Second Hand Tools
Before going into debt for a collection of shiny new tools, take a look around the second hand shops. Consider also that yard sales, craigslist, and Freecycle, are excellent places to find gently used rakes, trowels, pruning shears, hoes, and maybe even a fetching garden hat.
Read Up Before You Buy
Avoid the temptation of purchasing those cute little starter pots of tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. First, make a list of what you’d like to grow and then read up on what it takes. Check into which zone you are in, how much sun, water, and attention each variety demands, and if there are any native pests, including Bambi and Thumper. Next, revise your list.
Start Small with Seeds
It is much more economical to begin your garden with seeds rather than plants. If you start the process early enough, you can save quite a bit of money. Seeds are usually planted indoors to keep them out of harsh winter weather. All you need is some potting mix and something small to sprout them in. Old take out containers and egg cartons work really well.
Instead of buying several cubic feet of bagged soil from the garden center, explore other options. Individuals often have “fill dirt” for sale at a fraction of the cost that can be mixed with compost and peat moss. Have you been composting? Here’s the chance to put it to work! Before creating your own soil blend, read up and confirm that your ingredients will be beneficial to your veggies, that is-check for nitrogen and drainage requirements.
Here are some ideas for plotting your vegetable beds:
Divide and Conquer Creatively
Whether you are planting in raised beds or rows, there are all sorts of creative ways to divide up the plot. For example, look for second hand treated timber, old window frames, used bricks, and ladders. A wonderful resource book for inspiration is; “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew.
Another way to have a stress free garden is with the new “Topsy Turvy” containers. These cool hanging planters keep peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries in the sun and away from plant fungi and pests.
A new trend that has really taken off is that of community gardens. Many towns throughout the U.S. have recognized the many benefits of gardening and are making it accessible to those who don’t have the space or know how for a home plot of their own. Often, land is donated, a water source is designated, and participants pay a small fee for the plot preparation and plantings. Typically, spots are assigned to individuals and they are then responsible for the upkeep of their little garden space. It is a very pleasant way to get started and provides a wonderful social outlet. Plus, novice gardeners are bound to benefit from seasoned green thumbs! Your local Agricultural Extension Service should have information on any such activities.
Window Sill Gardens
If this all sounds like too much too soon – no worries! A window sill herb garden is small on care, but big on return. Imagine…potatoes with parsley, pasta with pesto, grilled salmon with dill, lemon balm tea, fresh mint for Mojitos, rosemary focaccia….yum!
Here are some tips to get you started on a window sill herb garden: